DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
STREET WITH NO NAME, THE (director: William Keighley; screenwriter: Harry Kleiner; cinematographer: Joe MacDonald; editor: William H. Reynolds; music: Lionel Newman; cast: Mark Stevens (Gene Cordell), Richard Widmark (Alec Stiles), Lloyd Nolan (Inspector Briggs), John McIntire (Cy Gordon), Barbara Lawrence (Judy Stiles), Ed Begley, Sr. (Chief Harmatz), Donald Buka ( Skivvy), Joseph Pevney (Matty), Howard I. Smith (Ralph Demory), Robert Patten (Frank Danker); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Samuel G. Engel; 20th Century Fox; 1948)

 
"The film noir gets its colorful flavorings from star Richard Widmark playing another psychopathic killer like he did in Kiss of Death."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

William Keighley ("Bullets or Ballots"/"G Men") ably directs in a no-nonsense manner this semidocumentary styled crime drama, while Harry Kleiner provides the taut script; it follows in the authentically atmospheric territory carved out by The House on 92nd Street (1945). The film noir gets its colorful flavorings from star Richard Widmark playing another psychopathic killer like he did in Kiss of Death, who tones down his neurotic act but still displays quirky characteristics such as being unduly concerned about germs and droughts, using his nasal inhaler as if it were a pleasure toy, slyly flirting in a muted homosexual way with his new gunsel (Stevens), and beating his bored wife (Barbara Lawrence) to assert his so-called manly rights. To make it seem realistic, real FBI personnel played several parts and a boastful narrator who seems on J. Edgar Hoover's payroll provides with his officious stentorian voice an uncritical report on how efficient the Bureau is in their lab work and how daring they are in the field. The film was remade as House of Bamboo in 1955 by Sam Fuller, who added a few more jolts to the narrative to enliven it further. 

Within a five day period a roadhouse and a bank are robbed in Midwestern 'Center City' by the same gang, as the same luger is used to kill a patron at the Meadowbrook roadhouse and a bank guard at the bank. The FBI, led by Inspector Briggs (Lloyd Nolan), is called in after the bank job. Frank Danker, a career criminal and skid row denizen, is framed for the roadhouse job as his stolen driver's license is found at the crime scene. The FBI corroborates through efficient lab work his alibi that he was in Chicago at the time of the heist and Danker's about to be released, but the FBI agents discover someone put up his bail and he was later found stabbed to death. 

Briggs recruits FBI agent Gene Cordell (Mark Stevens) to go underground and try and infiltrate the gang, and to work with an outside contact to report back his progress--FBI agent Cy Gordon (John McIntire)--an old friend who recruited him on the force. Gene's given the name Manley, provided with a phony social security card and a police blotter sheet for robbery but no convictions. At a boxing club in Danker's old skid row neighborhood Manley impresses fight promoter Alec Stiles (Richard Widmark) with his boxing ability. Next we learn that Manley's social security card is pinched by one of Stiles' gang members and left as evidence at a jewelry store the gang heisted. Manley is arrested but bailed out by Stiles, who informs him that's his way of checking for good recruits for his gang--using a high-powered source in the police department to get the valuable police records, who will also keep him informed of police activities. 

It leads to the now too familiar tale of the brave agent in danger of being unmasked, as the tension mounts to see if the FBI gets to the gang of eight in time to save their brave undercover agent. There's no emotional impact or development of character or attempt to say anything enlightening about the world of crime. The film's main purpose is to tell in an entertaining fashion how efficient the FBI is and how dangerous is their work. But the film is well-acted, has terrific shadowy visuals courtesy of Joe MacDonald, frighteningly conveys the feeling of a corrupt city, and never pretends to be anything more arty than a good cops and robbers action film. On those merits, it's watchable. 

REVIEWED ON 2/16/2005        GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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